Home Music Song of the Week: Calvin Harris Concocts the Perfect “Potion”

Song of the Week: Calvin Harris Concocts the Perfect “Potion”

Song of the Week: Calvin Harris Concocts the Perfect “Potion”

Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Calvin Harris gives us a first look at his upcoming Funk Wav. Bounces Vol 2, with some help from Dua Lipa and Young Thug.

Five years ago, Calvin Harris orchestrated a well-needed left turn from his wildly popular, occasionally cheesy EDM — just when summer was on the horizon, the Scottish producer teamed up with Frank Ocean and Migos for “Slide,” a deeply funky, specific and rewarding track for an artist that often worked in a more general sphere.

“Slide,” and its accompanying album, Funk Wav. Bounces Vol 1, completely shifted the paradigm for Harris, and he quickly moved away from the bombastic, drop-heavy tones of the past to something more nostalgic and organic. And now, after five years, some great standalone singles, and an attempt to go back to his UK House roots, Calvin Harris has returned with “Potion,” featuring Dua Lipa and Young Thug, the first single from his upcoming album, Funk Wav. Bounces Vol 2.

Luckily, Harris’ music has always lent itself to collaborations, and “Potion” certainly takes a page from Dua Lipa’s disco era. In a surprising turn, Harris leans away from the percussive edge that served as a through line between his EDM and days and the first Funk Wav. Bounces volume — the snare drum is no longer a seismic part of the beat, the frequent bongos add a purely natural feel, and even the bass drum is relatively light in the mix. These choices all point to Harris looking for a different way to elevate these songs naturally, but once again, Harris’ busy bass line and session piano does all the heavy lifting — the rest is up to Dua Lipa and Young Thug.

Both of these artists do a terrific job imbuing a large amount of restraint and tact on “Potion,” never bringing the song out of its stoned, seductive atmosphere. Dua Lipa’s voice can often have a piercing pop quality, but she ditches that entirely, opting for an oozing, almost spiritual performance (giving the “potion” theme a perfect vocal compliment). Young Thug is also an artist who can bring the energy level of a song to a soaring peak, and can be a delightful loose cannon, but on “Potion,” he’s selective, careful, low key, and remarkably smooth. Harris’ work behind the boards is as meticulous as ever on “Potion,” demonstrating that he can pretty much work with any kind of artist to accomplish his vision.

And overall, there’s something that’s deliberately small and light about “Potion.” Harris loves his summer jams (see: “Summer”), but there’s no impetus to create an Ibiza-worthy banger here: instead, it’s wildly intimate, sensual, and smooth. If “Potion” points to anything, it’s that Funk Wav. Bounces Vol. 2 may just be his most dynamic project yet.

— Paolo Ragusa

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